By mid-1945, as World War II wound down to its then inevitable conclusion, American automobile companies eagerly anticipated the day when government-mandated production of war materiel would end, and they could resume production of consumer-oriented vehicles. No less eager were the thousands of Americans waiting to get their hands on brand-new cars and trucks that they had been denied since the early 1942 model year. The pent-up demand for new vehicles was so great that every American company knew that whichever ones could satisfy the market demand first would reap a financial windfall.
When it came to the market for pickups and other light trucks, Chevrolet caught its competitors, including archrival Ford, with their tailgates down with the introduction of their all-new ‘Advance Design’ trucks in 1947. It was two years before Ford could counter with their new F-Series truck line. The post-war jump on their competitors left Chevrolet comfortably ahead as number one in the light truck market.
The last full year for the Chevy ‘Advance Design’ trucks was 1954, although a few 1955 models were made until the full production of their new ‘Task Force’ line ramped up. 1954 saw the biggest changes in the ‘Advance Design’ trucks since their introduction. They now had a one-piece curved windshield, a new ‘bull-nose’ grille and front turn signals, a redesigned dash with twin instrument dials, a new cargo box with a lower loading height, and a taller bed side with horizontal top rails.
The changes continued under the hood with a new 235 CID OHV six-cylinder engine producing 112 horsepower at 3,700 rpm. One of the biggest improvements was in the reliability of this engine, thanks to its full-pressure lubrication system that eliminated the inefficient ‘splash lubrication’ system of the old engine.
The standard transmission was a three-speed manual, with a heavy-duty, all synchromesh three-speed, and a floor-shifted four-speed manual transmission was optional. For the first time in Chevrolet truck history, a GM Hydra-Matic automatic transmission was offered.
By the mid-1950s Ford was offering its F-100 line of light trucks. The intense competition between Ford and Chevy for the top sales position began the evolution of the pickup truck from a strictly no-frills work vehicle to the comfortable all-around vehicle we know today. Cabs became bigger and more comfortable, convenience accessories proliferated, and the trucks became more powerful and reliable.
For 1954, Chevrolet’s Deluxe ‘Comfortmaster’ cab was an available option that included rear corner windows, chrome window moldings, a passenger-side sun visor, a driver armrest, and dual horns. Other options included electric windshield wipers, radio, heater, turn signals, a foot-operated windshield washer, a dash-mounted clock, and two-tone cabs. The age of styling had come to pickup trucks.
Like many vehicles of the early ‘50s, the 1954 Chevrolet 3100 remains a favorite of car and truck enthusiasts. The prices are reasonable, most parts are still available, and the pleasing design makes for an interesting restoration or a creative custom.
PICKUP TRUCKS: http://www.pickuptrucks.com/html/history/chev_segment5.html
CHEVY TRUCK HISTORY: http://www.classic-car-history.com/1947-1955-chevy-truck.htm
CHEVROLET ADVANCE DESIGN TRUCKS: http://www.cs.siena.edu/~lederman/truck/AdvanceDesignTrucks/AdvanceDesignTrucks.html